Rio de Janeiro is a city of extreme opposites where the very rich are geographically mixed with the very poor.  In the backyard hills of five-star hotels and condos are slum villages known as Favelas.  These are very poor communities often times corrupted by drugs and violent crime.  Some of them get their utilities by illegally tapping into the big hotels power lines.  I had the adventure of going on a behind scene’s tour to one of the favelas with a person I met in L.A.  His name is Cabral and before he had success playing music for the Latin Grammy´s he lived in the Contalago favela which is located just off the beach in the hill between Copacabana and Ipanema.  I must admit that I was a little hesitant to walk around this favela even though I was with a local who knew everyone there.  The local newspaper headline from the day prior didn’t help ease this funny feeling in my stomach; “30 innocent killed by lost police bullets in favela war”.  During this walk through the dirt streets I saw many things: Young children flying kites, mothers openly breast feeding their babies, a teenage kid with gun in hand, many children and adults walking around without shoes or shirt, streets filthy with trash, wild chickens roaming freely and the air smelling of sewer waste. The young children seemed happy as well as many others of the community. Children in the favela are raised by the entire village, everyone knows and looks out for eachother. In L.A. I don’t know one family who would let their children roam freely in thier neighborhood, most people in L.A don’t even know who thier neighbors are. In Rio it is more apparent where the dangerous places are than in the USA as we have seen with the recent shootings at schools and universities in the USA.  The favelas also have one of the best hillside views of the beach and Atlantic ocean, a view that would cost millions to live near in the USA.   Located directly across the street from first class dining establishments are little tiny bars that surprisingly have some really good food.  One of the traditional meals served at these “dives” is called Feijoada – Brazil’s national dish invented by the slaves.  Most of these bars are owned by Portuguese families who were part of Brazil’s colonization.  This is evident by the stylized Portuguese tiles on the walls and floors.  Automobiles share the streets with rickshaws (hand pushed, two wheeled delivery carts) that are stacked high with cardboard, aluminum, and plastic bottles that the poor spend their day collecting from the trash inorder to trade it in for money.

Advertisements